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Learning from the Future: the dance piece set in a post-life world

For choreographer Colette Sadler, creating the interdisciplinary piece, Learning from the Future, has been a unique experience. This work brings together dance, music, lighting and stagecraft to imagine a post-life world, where linear time and space don't exist. The piece is being performed live in Glasgow this August, with two nights at the CCA. We spoke to the practioner to find out more.

Learning from the Future received National Lottery funding through our Open Project Fund in January 2017.

Learning from the Future by Colette Sadler

How did Learning from the Future come about?

Learning from the Future began life in late 2015 at the Tanz Haus in Zurich. At that time, together with the dramaturge Assaf Hochman, I was looking at the historical ballet Les Noces, by modernist choreographer Bronislava Nijinska.

As part of my research into this ballet, I created the image of my own tombstone, an artistic gesture that would enable me to move beyond life into a post-life realm and engage in a fictional conversation with the deceased B. Nijinska about Les Noces.

As Learning from the Future developed, it moved away from the idea of working with the historical ballet, but took one central image from the research surrounding it: the notion of a fictional post-life environment, where linear time and space do not exist. This science fiction-like environment is where the protagonist of Learning from the Future, BODY A (a post-human futuristic body) moves, senses and experiences.

Learning from the Future was supported by the Nord Dans residency - a partnership between Dance Base in Edinburgh, and Bora Bora in Denmark. What is the international reach of this project?

I've been working internationally as a choreographer since 2006. Over the past ten years or more I have presented my work within many International festivals and contexts for dance , performance and visual art. Learning from the Future premiered in Berlin in June following a long term relationship I have developed with Sophiensaele Berlin. As mentioned above, Tanz Haus Zurich were also partners in the early stages of the research. The Scottish premiere will take place at CCA Glasgow on the 19th and 20th of August.

Theatre in its essence is an interdisciplinary art form- Colette Sadler

As a Scottish artist I have actively sought throughout my career to connect Scotland to other international partners and to seek out those Scottish organisations also involved in this. In Learning From The Future, Dance Base are one of those partners. Together with the dancer Leah Marojevic (who is BODY A) I spent 10 days in November 2016 at Bora Bora in Aarhus Denmark developing the first movement ideas for this work as part of the Nord Dans residency scheme.

Learning From The Future - Colette Sadler from TELÉMACHOS ALEXIOU on Vimeo.

This is an interdisciplinary project. How do you approach working with different forms?

Theatre in its essence is an interdisciplinary art form. Most, if not all, of my choreographic output sits within what might be called an interdisciplinary artistic practice. Although the main focus of my work is dance and choreography, I am engaged in incorporating other media and approaches to staging/representing the body within traditional stage settings. A particular kind of collaborative approach informs each of my creations with the works themselves being very much the sum of the artists involved.

Specifically in Learning for the Future, the challenge was to stage a human performer/dancer with a non-human performer. The non-human performer in LFTF is a monolithic object, a standing stone animated by imagery and light. Both image and movement co-exist in the universe of this work. The video projection for LFTF was created by artist Mikko Gaestel.

Together with the sound score by Brendan Dougherty, the fictionality of the artificial envirnoment in LFTF is strongly described by light. Designed by Samuli Laine, the lighting with its use of darkness and strong colour shifts and changes our perception of the choreography, shaping the audiences understanding and perception of the whole work.

You've been commissioned to create a new work from Scottish Dance Theatre in the future. What will that entail?

The commission for Scottish Dance Theatre has its origins in Learning from the Future. I am proposing to create a new work inspired by the historical ballet Les Noces (the piece that was the departure point for Learning for the Future).

Back in 2015, we left Les Noces in Zurich as a work waiting to be realised, so it felt right when Fleur Darkin (Artistic Director of SDT) approached me that I offer Les Noces, especially within the context of a ballet that begs for a larger group of dancers to realise its full potential.

Les Noces is due to premiere in early 2018, so watch this space.

Learning from the Future is at CCA, Glasgow, on 19th and 20th August 2017; Eden Court 18th October and DanceLive Festival in Aberdeen on 21st October.

This article was published on 25 Jul 2017